Governor accused of land grabbing

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Khmer Rise Party president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung (front). via facebook

Khmer Rise Party (KRP) president and member of the Supreme Consultation Council Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung accused Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun on Wednesday of illegally grabbing 56,966 sqm of state land.

Vathana Sabung said he was also looking into another 20 locations, including sites in protected areas.

Chandoeun dismissed the allegations as “lies and slander” intended for “political gain”.

Vathana Sabung said the illegally acquired land included a former military barracks and a disused sports field in Kampong Chhnang province’s Teuk Phos district.

He said he plans to submit a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen this weekend before discussing the matter with him.

Vathana Sabung told The Post on Wednesday that Chandoeun had illegally acquired state land in eight locations across more than 5ha.

He had gained land titles to seven of the eight sites through collusion, he said, while the eighth was sold to the director of the provincial Department of Mines and Energy, Ouk Rus.

“Eight plots of land, totalling 56,966sqm or more than 5ha, belong to the Kampong Chhnang provincial governor. This does not include another plot near the Acleda Bank. I am preparing a report for submission to Prime Minister Hun Sen this weekend.

“We have enough documentation and evidence to compile a report for the prime minister. However, this report will not include another 20 sites, including protected flooded forest land and fish spawning areas, as well as locations in the provincial capital. We are still investigating the case,” Vathana Sabung said.

However, Chandoeun released a letter rejecting the allegations. In it, he dismissed the claims as lies and slander. The letter said Vathana Sabung was intentionally misleading the public for political gain.

A letter released on Tuesday by the Kampong Chhnang provincial administration said that all state, public and private land in Kampong Chhnang province was legally registered following the procedures laid out by the government.

It said that the relevant institutions visited the locations concerned at least once a year and verified the sites as being on the managed land list.

The land had been given titles and registered following provincial committee and provincial state land management committee procedures, it added.

“The law and standards as set by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction have been followed. Citizens have the right to sell and buy all land that has been registered to contribute to national economic development and increase the living standards of each citizen.

“We have verified the ownership of the land through a letter from the provincial administration. Therefore, I have nothing to respond since each case has been verified. It is up to [Vathana Sabung] to submit a report to the prime minister,” Chandoeun told The Post on Wednesday.

Sam Chankea, Kampong Chhnang provincial coordinator for right groups Adhoc, said the matter should be reported to the government so it could be investigated transparently and fairly.

“We would like to see this matter investigated by the relevant institutions. I completely encourage the Khmer Rise Party president to continue to investigate this particular case, but I would also like to see the relevant institutions do so to protect state land.

“By doing so, the government can return all illegally occupied state land to the people,” Chankea said.